As with many things in life, getting a great deal when you buy a car is all about timing. Buy at the right time and you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a transaction. Strike at the wrong time, and you’ll find yourself paying out that much. When is the moment right, exactly? Good question.
Conventional wisdom suggests that buyers find the best offers at the end of the year when dealers start lowering prices to reach their annual revenue goals. There’s a lot of truth to that advice. Buying as the year ends is a good idea. But here’s the thing: There’s no guarantee you’ll find a deal on the specific new car model you’re looking for.
On top of that, plenty of buyers can’t afford to wait another six months. For some, the cost of maintaining an old car is simply too high to keep it around any longer. Others need a new ride to better fit big lifestyle changes, like a growing family. Or maybe some just want to take advantage of cheap auto financing and dealer incentives to get behind the wheel of something shiny.
That’s why the simplest answer is the best time to buy a car is when you need one. However, we have some tips on the best times to buy that are easier to factor in, even if you don’t have the luxury of time. Let’s look at the best times of year to buy a car, when you’re more likely to strike gold with a great deal or buying experience.
Starting small: Good times of any month to buy a car
If you don’t have time to wait for big buying times later in the year, there are still key windows every month to time your car buying with to save more.
End of the day
Like most professionals, car salespeople are ready to head home at the end of the day. So are the finance and insurance providers who have a say in any transaction. Take advantage of that by showing up at the dealership about an hour before closing. If you’re serious about buying, a smart salesperson won’t let you walk away just because the lights are set to turn off soon.
As the day comes to a close, new car shoppers are often able to negotiate favorable deals. Because everyone wants to wrap your transaction up quickly, dealers are more likely to make concessions to speed up negotiation. So long as you’re committed and ready to make a fair offer (being well-rested and determined doesn’t hurt either), you’re likely to encounter less resistance.
Early in the week
According to Credit Karma, buying earlier in the week will offer you a much better car buying experience, and possibly save you money. That’s because dealerships are typically busier on the weekends and the days leading up to the them, so shopping earlier in the week might mean more time and attention from the sales team. That extra focus, and likely less stress, might mean they’ll be more open to negotiating a better deal with you.
End of the month
The end of the month can also be a great time to buy a car. Car dealerships often have quotas for how many cars they need to sell in a given month. Towards the end of the month, they may be really pushing to meet those quotas if they haven’t yet, so they might be more likely to cut you a deal.
Larger savings targets: Good times of year to buy your car
For those who do have the luxury of time, there are certain times of year you can expect to see notable savings when buying your car, such as:
End of the calendar year
According to Bankrate, “The months of October, November and December are the best time of year to buy a car.” Why? Back to quotas again. Dealerships don’t just have monthly quotas — they also have annual quotas they have to satisfy. A dealership might be rushing to meet those numbers, which again may mean a better price for you.
Another reason they might be eager to sell at the end of the year? Dealers want to have the newest cars on their lot as the end of the year approaches in preparation for the new year. If they still have a lot of models from the previous year on their lot, they’ll be more eager to get rid of them.
It should be noted, however, that buying a new car towards the end of the year (December in particular) may be a tall order for some consumers, many of whom will have holiday spending in mind and may feel less enticed to drop big money on a car (and the insurance that goes with it). If you have the funds set aside, however, you’ll find dealers anxious to negotiate, giving you a shot at obtaining the best possible price on car models left at the end of the year.
End and beginning of the model year
It’s not just the calendar year that can help you save — knowing the end and beginning of a model year can mean serious savings. At the beginning of a model year, dealerships will often offer incentives (like discounts) and rebates to entice buyers and help them meet — you guessed it — their potential quotas for selling a certain number of that new car.
The end of the model year is a great time to save for those that aren’t really concerned with having the latest and greatest model. Just like with the calendar year, dealerships will often want to clear out older model years to make room for incoming new model years, which means they’ll be more likely to offer you a good deal.
Keep in mind that buying an older model may mean missing out on certain improvements and upgrades in the newer model. However, changes between two models are often minor, so you likely won’t be missing out on anything major. It used to be that new models would all arrive at once to a dealership, but these days they usually trickle in at different times, so it’s important to watch your model’s year cycle to know when they plan on releasing a new one. Or, if you’re not interested in any one model in particular, the end of summer is one of the most common times for old models to start cycling out.
We’ve all seen the commercials — car dealerships love to promote their major holiday sales, because they’re a win for both them and you. These sales allow them to sell way more inventory, while you get to spend significantly less than normal on great car choices. Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day and Black Friday are all huge sale holidays for most car dealerships, so consider holding off on buying if one of those holidays is just around the corner.
Cars are a big investment, whether they’re a newer model or last year’s. Planning in advance can really help you save big when buying a car, but don’t forget to consider car insurance when you’re shopping around. A pricier car may mean a higher insurance rate, so be sure to budget for your insurance premium when shopping. Get a quote with Elephant to see what kind of spending (and saving!) you can expect with your car — no matter the model year.